WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
The Locusts takes place on a cattle ranch in the midwest, but it's got all the hardboiled intimacy of good noir fiction. There's a chain-smoking femme fatale with a black heart, a stranger harboring secrets of his own who's inevitably embroiled in a sinister plot, and there's betrayal and seething rage around every corner. This is a surprisingly powerful piece of filmmaking that hardly made a blip on the Hollywood radar when it hit screens in 1997.
Clay Hewitt (Vince Vaughn, looking young and baby-faced) starts the story rolling when he wanders into the dusty town of Sealy, Kansas. He's broke and needs money to finish his journey to California. With the help of some suspicious locals, Clay lands a job and boarding at a ranch managed by the sultry Delilah Potts (Kate Capshaw). After a few days, Clay finds his curiosity piqued by Delilah's mute and emotionally wrecked son, nicknamed Flyboy (Jeremy Davies of Saving Private Ryan, giving an incredible performance). As Clay forges an unlikely friendship with Flyboy and begins to coax the fragile boy out of his shell, the creepy secrets of the Potts family history begin to emerge—as does Delilah's true nature.
The actors deserve special mention here—they elevate the material by truly inhabiting these characters, each of whom seems to be hiding some darkly fascinating underbelly. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of Vaughn, but he's excellent here as the brooding stranger with the good heart. Capshaw infuses Deliliah with sultry passion, and even though she plays an aging mother, she sparks with all the fiery trappings of a great femme fatale. Ashley Judd appears as Clay's love interest, a local gal who enjoys recreational sex and is fiercely intelligent and honest. Davies practically steals the film away from the rest of them. As Flyboy, he's masterful, making you ache for the poor kid's misery through the film's very last scene.
The Locusts is foremost a movie about characters, and the story flows naturally from them. This is a lurid film noir full of strong personalities and horrific revelations, thunder-enforced mythology and rain-soaked madness. Some might find the proceedings somewhat too lurid, but for those of us enthralled by Hollywood's noir tradition, The Locusts is a very fine throwback to possibly the coolest era in American film.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
MGM presents The Locusts in an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The image offers a fine level of detail, and the colors are particularly well rendered, accurately showcasing the dusty midwestern color palette. Brightly lit scenes fare the best, and night scenes—of which there are many—suffer from graininess and loss of shadow detail. This is not a bad transfer, but a little more effort would have been welcome.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track gets the job done, providing a good front-end presentation. This is a dialog-driven effort, and thankfully, all dialog came across as natural, with no high-end distortion.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Damn it, there's just a trailer. At least it's presented in anamorphic widescreen.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Director John Patrick Kelly has produced a striking first feature in The Locusts. Like all great noir, this film tells a quiet, intimate story—the surface of which might break at any moment under the weight of unspoken human emotion and drama.